Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What I wish I had told myself.

Me in the First Grade
Messages to a Li’l Mark

“If you could send a message to your younger self, what would you say?” That was the question of interest on last week’s “Mark and Cindy Show.”

Mark and Cindy Show? You know, the talk show on Lonestar Internet Radio at 10 on weekday mornings? Broadcast in downtown Conroe over by the Crighton Theater? Irlonestar.com? Right. Thaaaat talk show. Thanks for playing dumb, so I could get in that shameless promo.

Anyway, Cindy and I asked listeners to phone in or post comments on Facebook concerning the question about what message you might send to a younger you. I’d feel really bad about so few listeners responding were it not for the fact that I doubt I would’ve responded had I been a listener.

Trying to conjure some uplifting advice or maybe some words of warning that you could’ve used years ago can be a less than enjoyable endeavor. It has taken some of us years to bury all the mess that happened to us. Who wants to dig it all up again? Well, you don’t have to. Let me dig up mine, and I’ll share with you.

If I could go back and talk to a young me, I’d tell myself – Regardless of what you think, you are not the dumbest person on the planet. Yes, I realize that on the second day of school you were the only one at Garden’s Elementary who couldn’t remember where his classroom was or the name of his teacher. Hey, I was there at the time. That just means that on one morning you were the dumbest person at Garden’s Elementary. Not the dumbest person on the planet. See the difference?

When Daddy comes home from the refinery, you need to hug him. I know he’s not into hugging, but see if you can get him there. Dad is what you would call “depressed” and he’s got a load of stuff on his mind.  It would help him to know that his kids appreciate him. Won’t cure him, but it will help.

And, your Grandpa Hayter? This next summer when the family makes its annual trip to Bristow, Oklahoma, you need to act like you’re interested in what the man has to say. He genuinely enjoys talking with you, and it would mean the world to him if he thought you valued what he had to say. That old man loves you dearly.

Oh, and Mark, there is going to be a really slow kid in the second grade. He’s mentally ill and can’t help it. You need to take up for him. And, don’t laugh with the others behind his back, or else you’re going to feel bad about it forever.

There’s something called “puberty” that’s going to hit you. There’s nothing you can do about it. The reason no one tells you anything about it is ‘cause they don’t understand it either. Just know that you’re not the only one who experiences it. Yes, I know this is confusing. I’d explain it to you, but I don’t understand it myself. Remember – It’s not just you.

There’s coming a day when Mother will ask Jill and you which one turned on the water hose and made a mess of the backyard. Do not blame it on Jill. It was your idea, so own up to it. If you don’t, Jill will voluntarily take the blame and the spanking, and never utter a word about it. You’ll take the guilt to your grave.

When the neighborhood gang gets up the bright idea to walk to Red Bluff Fishing Camp, don’t go along with the idea. What Steve won’t tell you is that the place is about 25 miles away, and you’ll only make it to the five-mile mark. Then you’ll have to turn around and walk back home. Bad shoes, no water, ill fitting shorts… Just don’t do it.

When you get to junior high and high school, go ahead and take choir and drama. I know you think it’s for sissy boys, but it’s not. Yes, you’ll probably take a bit of razzing from the football team, but you’ll survive it. Who knows, you may encourage some of your teammates to get involved in choir and drama.

There are a few hundred other things I could tell you, but you’re not even going to listen to these few that I’ve shared. You’re a kid. Some stuff you’ve just got to learn the hard way. But, try to keep this in mind. -- The good and the bad things that happen to you are all a part of growing. It will make you who you are. It’ll make you – ME. No don’t look at me. You’re not going to like what you see.

Before I leave you alone, I do wish you’d do just this one thing for me. Would you please try to forget about me (the future you) and focus on The Now. You are the total of all of your moments. They may not seem all that precious to you at the time, but believe me, they are to be treasured. You’ll realize that when you get to me.


Mark@rooftopwriter.com and www.rooftopwriter.com and www.irlonestar.com.

The slots

How I lost ten bucks on "I Dream of Jeannie"

    Over my lifetime I’ve lost, maybe, $50 gambling. The Courier reimbursed me $20 that I lost while researching a piece on carnival games. I would’ve rather had a Pulitzer.

More recently, I lost a $10 gift card in a drawing that I instigated at a party. I lost a dollar to Virginia on a bet that Freeman would buy us all some ice cream. I bet that he would.

Mom and Dad never had to tell us not to gamble. While God was remiss in having “gambling” mentioned in scripture, preachers have helped out by making it an “inferred commandment.” I have heard so many sermons against the evils of alcohol, loose women and cards that I’ve pretty much stayed away from liquor and poker. I still struggle with the loose women thing, though.

I say all that to say this, a couple of weeks ago, Kay and I met a couple of friends of ours from Arkansas at a casino in Louisiana. Sharon and David have been telling us about their trips to Coushatta to play the slots. They allow themselves a set amount of money to lose. On occasion they come home with a surplus.

Our friends talked of cheap food, great lodging, free drinks and penny slots. Two of those things sounded pretty good to me – The food and the hotel rooms. S and D said that their rooms usually don’t cost ‘em anything ‘cause they’re valued customers at the casino. You see, the more money you’ve spent gambling, the more the casino wants you back, so they entice you with a free room.

Since Kay and I hadn’t taken even a short trip in about three years, we agreed to meet the Arkansans at Coushatta for a couple of days. And, what an experience it was.

The stories of free rooms and cheap meals, did not apply to Kay and me ‘cause we were enigmas. The casino had to evaluate our propensity to gamble. Don’t get me wrong, the food and the room were what you’d expect to find at an expensive place, ‘cause it was an expensive place.

But, the slot machines? Well, that’s an experience. After Kay and I registered at the casino, we were each given a card that allowed us to play the slots and gave us five dollars each to start the action. Sharon was my mentor while David adopted Kay.

Sharon picked out one of the “I Dream of Jennie” penny machines and stuck my card in the slot, which was just slightly painful ‘cause the card was attached to lanyard around my neck. The machine had about 20 weird genie icons on the screen and I couldn’t make head nor tails out anything.

After inserting my card, Sharon said, “Okay, pay attention, here’s what you do.”  She then punched two buttons and before you can say the “I’ve” in “I’ve been robbed!”  the machine let me know that I had just lost my $5 casino beginner-money in one try at a PENNY MACHINE!

Sharon told me that she had accidentally hit the “10 Cents” button followed by the “50 Rows” button, and that none of the 50 rows had a match. I would’ve gotten as much out of that had she said it in Latvian.

Sharon cautioned that “I” needed to be more careful next time. Then she said, “Okay, give me $5 cash and I’ll show you the right way to do it.” And, do you want to know what’s crazy? I did what she said!

Bottom line, Kay and I agreed that we would lose no more than $40 total… which we did. That doesn’t count the $5 we each got from the casino to start us off. For whatever reason, I didn’t enjoy the experience of letting a machine determine whether or not I was going to win something. Push a button and arrows are going all over the screen and I discover I won 10 cents on a five cent bet. Next time I lose. And the next time… I pretty much developed a rhythm. Sharon dragged me to different machines, but none of ‘em liked me.

The following morning, on our way to breakfast in the casino, I saw a guy all scrunched up in front of a slot machine. There were three people sitting in the area, so I decided not to check on him. I thought he was suffering from a crippling disease, so I instantly said a prayer for him. A prayer is a gift I too seldom give.

While I was eating my $12 serving of eggs, bacon and toast, I mentioned the slumped figure at the slot machine. Sharon said, “Oh, he’s just been up all night and doesn’t want to lose his machine.” I figured the prayer was still warranted.

Yes, an interesting experience it was. At least I got an article out of it. I’m tempted to send an invoice to the newspaper and see if Andy will reimburse me. I’ll bet you $40 he doesn’t.

Oh, well, who knows, maybe Kay and I can get a free room next time. I don’t know how much $40 goes to making you a prized customer, but I assure you, it’s as prized as we’ll ever be. Can I hear an “Amen!”


Friday, January 10, 2014

Stuffed Fish

Family party turns stupid.
 Over a fish!

    The family New Years Eve party at my house started out all right. Typical stuff. We’re sitting around the dining table snacking on dips and chips while talking about old times, old movies and getting old. Those are usually the big three.

At some point during the conversation, Larry brought up the story about the Christmas that Grandma Pearl sent us the stuffed fish. “You know, the huge swordfish?” That’s what he called it, a swordfish.

Anyone with any memory at all, realizes that Grandma didn’t send us a marlin. She sent us a stuffed tarpon. No pointed nose on a tarpon.  I wasn’t going to correct Larry, ‘cause Larry seldom gets anything right. He thinks Don Johnson once played Zorro.

So, let it go, Mark. That’s what I decided. But, Big Al? Alan let the comment hang there as long as he could. He was hoping I would be the one to correct Larry, but I had taken the wiser course of letting it go. Remember?

Alan finally said, “You do realize that the fish Grandmother Pearl sent was a tarpon and that it didn’t have a pointy nose?” – You would’ve thought he said that Disney World was in Dodge City. The rift in the family was wide and deep that night, my friend.

The three youngest Hayters ( Al, Jill and I) were the only ones who knew the truth. Larry and Dennis had apparently been hitting the mushroom dip too hard.

I eventually had to tell the real story about Pearl’s fish. I mentioned it to you several years ago? It was back in 1960, when Grandma Pearl informed us that she was sending the family a $100 Christmas present from Florida.

In 1960, $100 was like a gazillion. Dennis and I were thinking pool table or maybe a tree house kit. A giant crate did arrive a couple days before Christmas, and in it was a giant stuffed tarpon.

Disappointment hit the family as hard as when Mom donated all her Green Stamp books. Daddy knew that there was a chance a fish was on its way, but he refused to dash our hopes. You see, back in the fall, Pearl had sent a picture of her and her fourth husband standing behind a giant fish suspended from a mooring used for hanging giant fishes. She was so proud of her catch that she had the tarpon stuffed before realizing she had no place to hang it.

What better way to unload a monstrosity than to gift it to her only son? When Dad hauled the huge fish out of the crate, I was so disappointed that I cried. We didn’t need nor want a stuffed fish anymore than we wanted a two-headed mannequin in the kitchen.

    The fish ended up in Dennis’ and my bedroom. We used it to hide our valuables like coins, stamps and Nifty Coupons in its big mouth. I never knew what became of the fish, but the brother who thinks Don Johnson was Zorro said that Dad gave the “pointy-nosed” fish to Dr. Dawson, our family doctor.

There was no doubt in Larry’s mind about the nose of the fish. Dennis, the guy who had roomed with the fish for five years, thought the same thing. We even called our sister Sue in Washington State, and she, too, assured us that it was a marlin.

    Al had trouble holding it all together. He even Googled “ tarpon” on his phone and showed everyone a picture of a tarpon. Dennis and Larry both said that Pearl apparently lied when she said the fish was a tarpon, ‘cause what we had was a pointy nosed fish.

    Suddenly a notion struck Jill. Ka-whap! She reminded me that she had sent me some family pictures after Mom passed away and that she was sure I had the picture of Pearl with the fish. After an hour search, I found the picture of Grandma with the tarpon, and I passed it around.

    Larry took one look at the fish and said, “Yep, that’s a fish, but it’s not the one Grandma sent us.” Dennis said, “Wait a minute! That’s not even Grandma!” That’s how stubborn Hayter kids can be when they’re proved wrong.

    Things got pretty hairy that night. We tried to let the disagreement not spoil the festivities, but that was near impossible. I don’t suffer stupidity well, and Al suffers it not at all. While watching the A&M game, different ones kept making silly references to fish. – “Whoa, that guy runs like a hooked marlin.” And “Hey, did the Miami Tarpons make it the playoffs?”

    There’s no question that we’re all going to get over this, but the topic will surface at future gatherings. I guarantee it. And, I seriously hope there will be many more of those, ‘cause we’re family. You couldn’t bust us up any more than you could change Larry, Susan or Dennis’ mind. – That being said, happy 2014. And, that comes from all the Hayters… including the ones who are nuts.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Genius New Years Resolutions

Resolutions about what you won't do. It's genius!

    Finally, a New Years resolution scheme that actually works! You are so going to want to thank me for this week’s article. A few will want to follow up with cashews. Follow your heart.

I got the idea from, uh, I don’t know. It just came to me while I was eating a tuna sandwich and green olives. Not pertinent, but interesting. So, I’m eating and it hits me – Bonk! --  What have we done to the word “resolution”? It means nothing anymore. By our breaking of resolutions, we’ve altered the definition of “resolve” to mean “refuse.”

And there in lies the genius. I instantly finished my sandwich and then jotted down a list of stuff I resolve NOT to do in 2014. And I will succeed, because I am one of the best not-doers-of-stuff there is. So if I do something on the list, I will fail, but if I don’t, I succeed. It’s more than genius. It’s venti genius.

First of all, in 2014 I will not go see The Nutcracker. You can’t make me. I know the ballet is performed by the most accomplished athletes in the world, but their efforts are wasted on me. I will fight and die for their right to torture themselves by standing on the tips of their toes for several seconds, but I just don’t care to watch ‘em do it. 

I will not buy a pair of cowboy boots in 2014. The best fitting footwear there is? I just don’t see it. If I had to stick my foot in a stirrup in order to ride fence all day, I’d get me a pair. But, I can’t see breaking my foot in order to put on a piece of footwear with a massively high arch, a two to three inch heel, with the tip that comes topoint so all your toes can get scrunched. And all just cruse Kroger?

Speaking of cowboys, I resolve in 2014 not to bust a bronco, punch a doggie or own a cat. I’ll not buy a cow either. Animals are okay. I just don’t care to be responsible for any of ‘em.

I will not ride a roller coaster in 2014. In fact, if God thinks anything of me at all, I’ll never ride another roller coaster in my life. I’ve ridden one. The best part of the ride was when the 14 year-old kid pried my hands off the bar and helped me out of the deathtrap.

I can assure you that this year I will not knowingly get a tattoo, paint a big letter on my bare chest, spend the night in Nebraska or dance the “jerk.” Nor will I eat raw octopus, squid, eel, dogfish or iguana. I just can’t see me doing any bungee jumping in 2014, so let’s add that to the list too.

I resolve, promise and assure you that I will not visit the Australian Outback in 2014. (The continent, not the restaurant.) Any country that has the top ten most poisonous snakes, a worm that spits and an ant that can kill you is not on my “must see” list. – “And, just to the left of the bus you will see a squirting Buey Bird! Aaaaaaugh! My eyes, my eyes!”

While I would enjoy traveling somewhere, I will not drive a motor home to Yellowstone this year. Nor do I plan to camp out in a pup tent or bathe in a stream. While I would enjoy eating biscuits around a fire, I’ll not be baking any in a skillet buried in coals. I refuse to tackle such a task.

I just can’t see me putting together a model car or battleship, or carving a bi-plane out of balsa. I’ve tried that kind of stuff and have learned my limits. Due to my low patience threshold, I shall steer clear of tedious, artful tasks.

I have it on good authority that Mark Hayter will not wire a house, install a bathtub, or roof a house this year. While there are not many acting gigs I would turn down, I assure you I will not appear in any commercials about erectile dysfunction. I’d be a believable subject, I just don’t care to participate.

I’ve got a few dozen more resolutions, but I’m sure you see the gist of it all. So many things NOT to do, and only a year NOT to do them. It’s genius I tell you. Forget the cashews. I’m holding out for one of those giant snicker bars that I saw at Kroger. Where are my boots?


Mark@rooftopwriter.com and www.rooftopwriter.com